The Minnesota Vikings have had players leave the lineup for a multitude of reasons, and their collective absence has the team and city looking to next season only three games into this NFL season. Adrian Peterson, though the most infamous case, might not be their most devastating loss, despite Peterson’s long list of accomplishments, after Matt Cassel was lost for the season. With the current and probable future riding with Teddy Bridgewater, every game in the immediate future will have to come with a tutorial from the team and patience from a city of loyal fans for the rookie quarterback.
Adrian Peterson, still embroiled within a legal and public minefield, is likely done with the team for this year and beyond. No punishment has been handed out quite yet, what with the Commissioner handling his own problems, but many expect a season-long suspension is imminent. On top of that, Vikings officials have attempted to give their support to the displaced running back, but some have found that he “just doesn’t get it,” and the future of the team is aimed at moving forward without him. That removes one of the best running backs in the league from their backfield and, even if this is the right move to make, changes the game for this season’s team.
The straw that may have broken the Minnesota Vikings for the season is located in Matt Cassel’s foot, where broken bones will have him out until next season. Cassel was not lighting up the scoreboard with his progressively worse play this year, but he, with Peterson in the backfield, was a big part of their opening week win against the St. Louis Rams. The quarterback was the most veteran of the three on the team, with Christian Ponder the next experienced on the roster. However, it is rookie Teddy Bridgewater that will step onto the field as a starter next week.
Against the New Orleans Saints, other huge injuries happened that limit the entire team and Bridgewater’s development moving forward. Tight end Kyle Rudolph looks out for multiple weeks after a required surgery for a sports hernia. The offensive line is springing leaks with guard Brandon Fusco being on the same injury reserve list as Cassel. The defense is already bending to struggling teams such as the New England Patriots, leaving little confidence in a continued sense of improvement on that side of the ball. Bridgewater, then, is not left with much to take this team forward.
The new starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings has to look at the next game in the schedule, even if the fan base and coaching staff may feel that the club is already playing for next season. Bridgewater may be able to mask the offensive line troubles with his mobility and elusiveness, and there are plenty of young receivers of the team to throw the ball to, but this is now his learning process. Even if Cassel come can back healthy next year, the future of the Minnesota Vikings is now in Teddy Bridgewater’s hands, even if that future is after week 17 of the NFL schedule.
Commentary by Myles Gann